Jerusalem faction of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church say confrontations with rival factions continue
Pretoria - The Jerusalem faction of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC), led by Michael Sandlana, on Thursday said confrontations with rival factions continue, and its branch premises were invaded and seized ostensibly by an armed rival faction.
This comes despite multi-pronged interventions, appeals from the government and mediations led by the CRL Rights Commission for cessation of armed hostilities in the IPHC succession battle after the murder of five people earlier this year.
“On Tuesday, early in the morning, a group of men who identified themselves as police officers arrived at our church facility in Lebotloane village (North West province) driving four vehicles with no number plates,” said Priest Vusi Ndala, spokesperson of the IPHC Jerusalem faction headquartered in Pretoria.
He said the people in the group then introduced themselves to security officers at the premises and church members as “intelligence services” agents conducting an operation to search the facility after receiving a tip-off about illegal firearms.
“They also claimed that they were in possession of an eviction letter from the Bedwang police station in the North West province. This group was with a Captain Letsoko from the Tactical Response Team (TRT) in Pretoria. Interestingly, the captain and a sergeant from the Bedwang police station had no knowledge of the eviction letter, let alone this operation,” said Ndala.
He said the police officers who were with the group then locked up the premises with “newly purchased locks, and handed the keys over to Chief Nawa”, the local chief.
“On entering the premises, the group searched the security officers at our premises and they subsequently chased out our security officers and all other church members and workers on the premises,” said Ndala.
He said it soon became apparent that the purported “intelligence operation” was “a bogus operation” to enter, seize and occupy the facility.
“On hearing about this invasion, our initial reaction would have been to immediately dispatch additional security officers from our Jerusalem main facility (in Pretoria), to intervene and manage the situation. But we are a peace-loving and God-fearing people who have taken lessons from previous and recent events where there was bloodshed and finger-pointing,” said Ndala.
“Learning from the incident of July 11 in Zuurbekom, where people died during an operation of a similar modus operandi, our leadership was informed that the invaders at Lebotloane strongly warned that should there be any person or group of security coming in to intervene, the invaders would not hesitate to shoot to kill.”
Ndala added that with the heightening animosity, an Eskom employee allied to the other faction of the IPHC has allegedly been “abusing his position at Eskom by sending emails to his colleagues and supervisors in the Limpopo region, instructing them to disconnect electricity at all farms in Warmbaths (Bela Bela), currently under the care of the IPHC Jerusalem”.
“This act is clearly against the spirit of the mediation process and the commitments made thereupon. These two developments are not linked but their coincidence and occurrence in the same week just two days apart makes an interesting assessment. Both acts are instigating and inciting violence and in contradiction to the commitment made by all factions at the CRL Rights Commission in July to stop the violence following the mediation process that took place between the July 22 and 24,” said Ndala.
“This is also against the order of the Westonaria Magistrate’s Court where the magistrate, at the bail application of those that were arrested following the July 11 incident in Zuurbekom, ordered that no member should instigate and incite violence at any of the respective factions’ premises.”
In the aftermath of the deadly confrontation in July, where at least five people died at the Zuurbekom division of the IPHC led by Leonard Modise, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) found that the gunfight was mostly due to the ongoing succession battles.
The three factions, namely the Pretoria Jerusalem division led by Sandlana, which reportedly commands the support of most IPHC priests on the church council, the Zuurbekom faction operating from the IPHC’s traditional headquarters under Frederick Leonard Goitsemang Modise, and the third faction led by Tshepiso Modise based in Springs, east of Gauteng, have been engaged in a bitter battle for the control of the popular church.
African News Agency (ANA)